Johnson was born in January of 1897, in Pendleton, Texas. Once he reached the age of 4, his mother already passed. Though, he quickly found passion in his life upon experiencing and witnessing the services at Marlin Missionary Baptist Church, every Sunday; soon, it was his dream to become a Baptist minister.
It's debated how Johnson became blind, but the most commonly told story is that Blind Willie Johnson's father angrily confronted Johnson's new stepmother, accusing her of infidelity. Enraged by the accusal, Johnson's stepmother grabbed a bowl of lye water, highly acidic, and aimed for Johnson's father. Missing, she hit 7 year old Blind Willie Johnson's face with the caustic solution, immediately ridding him of sight.
Fortunately, after his father had given him a cigar box at an early age, he found a way to stay passionate and focused. This led him to eventually becoming quite successful as a recording artist for Columbia Records in the late 20s. In fact, he outsold Bessie Smith, practically a superstar of the time, with his sides of I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole and Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed. He'd continue to record consistently until the industry ran dry due to the Depression.
From there, he was much less active with music, and was reported to have been preaching in churches here and there until his death in 1945. With his house ruined from a fire, he continued to live among the rubble; soon, he contracted malaria. Due to the times, as both a blind man and a black man, his attempt to get medical attention were rejected, leading to his death shortly thereafter. Today, Johnson lives on as a unique, bright star among all genres period, and aptly his recording of Dark Was the Night continues to fly through the cosmos, aboard the Voyager spacecraft.